PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 February, 2007, 12:00am

what's going on around the globe

It's difficult to leave the Banquet exhibition at the Pacific Asia Museum without a hankering for Chinese food. After all, food is at the heart of the show, which ends today after almost a three-month run.

Banquet: A Feast for the Senses is a multimedia of the works of 14 Asian and Asian-American artists from China, Japan, Korea and Pakistan. Many of them created pieces especially for the exhibition, which is alternately whimsical and jarring.

The exhibition area of the Pasadena museum has been reconfigured like a traditional Chinese home - all stone benches, koi ponds and pagoda-style roofs.

The idea behind the event is to highlight how the banquet table is at the centre of many cultural notions of family and friendship - not just in Asia, but worldwide. The paintings, prints, sculptures, photographs and video installations on display explore that theory in multiple ways, some of them mesmerising.

Kohei Nawa from Japan uses a combination of glass beads and plastic toys to create his collection of food items PixCell. Specimens of sushi, bottles of Tabasco, a serving of chocolate parfait - all created from sparkling, colourful beads in a rendering that's fun and artistic.

Korean Jung Eun Park's Paper Menagerie Series is a collection of paper sculptures decorated with opaque and transparent watercolours and colour pencils. They're attached to two walls and look like delicate, paper- thin seashells.

In the middle of one of the rooms is Cambodian Aragna Ker's Inner Experience, an odd sculpture made from tiny multicoloured wooden sticks and ordinary domestic materials. It's a challenge trying to figure out how it relates to food.

Zhang Huan, a Chinese artist who does a lot of performance work incorporating his body, contributes Foam, a series of four self-portraits done as huge chromogenic prints on Fuji archival paper. He's covered in white soapy foam, while devouring sepia-tinted images of his family. The photos are meant to represent Zhang's desire to cleanse his body and make his relatives part of him.

Other offerings aren't as elliptical. Li Jin's Fish Dish, Harvest 1 and Summertime Pursuits are ink-wash on paper that use pale colours, subtle shading and simple brush strokes to show happy faces and dishes of food. Harvest 1, in particular, evokes bustling market scenes, with huge squashes, platters of fish and hairy crabs taking up much of the space of the canvas - the rest occupied by people simply staring.

Li Jin is said to have been influenced by depictions of food from the Song and Yuan dynasties, which are typically neat and graceful. In his hands, even these ancient techniques look fresh and modern.

Japanese artist Chiho Aoshima's computer-drawn digital print Sublime Grave Dweller Shinko is an attempt to show the deity Shinko in a cemetery consuming negative souls. As she exhales, their cleansed spirits emerge in the form of moths.

Some images are jarring. Zhi Lin, also from China, is showing his 1999 Five Capital Executives in China: Starvation. A mixed-media painting and screen print on canvas and ribbon, the work shows people feasting and banqueting lavishly, while men are imprisoned nearby - a scene that looks to be set in ancient China.

Hard to stomach, indeed.